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"You people have to forgive what happened in the past and live in the present." Does that sound familiar? How many times has that line been used to sweep aside acts of theft and destruction? Now, the so called 'New Agers', and those who claim to follow the 'Native Way', have caught on to it. Often they will then justify their particular acts of theft and destruction by quoting their own interpretations of prophesies they have corrupted - particularly popular are aspects of Hopi prophesy that were revealed after meetings at Shungopovi and Hotevilla in the late 1940s and early 1950s and entrusted to specific Hopi messengers to share. That inspiration became the foundation from which many Indian people sought and returned to their own people's traditional ways and was the catalyst for events such as Indians of All Tribes' occupation of Alcatraz, The Trail of Broken Treaties and the formation of the American Indian Movement. Is the irony lost on the wannabes that it is true traditionalist who oppose them today? They tell us that by countering their tide of cultural appropriation we reaffirm our status as 'victims' and lose our 'honor' and 'dignity'. When that doesn't work they conclude with "Well, you guys don't own Lakota (substitute tribal identity as appropriate) beliefs. The Great Spirit gave them to all mankind, just like the sacred pipe." These and similar comments serve only to demonstrate the arrogance and ignorance of those who present them, and emphasize their total lack of understanding in relation to Lakota beliefs and other traditional life way philosophies. We do not live within the confines of linear time lines; the past is our reality, the present is our reality and the future is our reality. We can oppose and yet pray for our opponent. We may fight and still pray for our enemy.

Taking a stand does not make us victims - passively watching the erosion of our culture does. Those who claim to 'honor' us and have concocted a 'Rainbow Tribe' formula of distorted 'Native symbolism' and perceived ritual for their own gratification are nothing more than shadows of Cortez, Coronado, De Soto, Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and their kind. Theft and destruction became the foundation and fundamental principles upon which the dominant society proliferated. Those who attend workshops, lectures and commercial bastardized ceremonies presided over by Native and non-Native plastic shaman perpetuate the ethos of colonialism: at first ask to share; then adopt; then adapt; then claim; and finally, dominate - an Oneida activist, Pam Colorado, explains, " The process is ultimately intended to supplant Indians, even in the areas of their own customs and spirituality. In the end, non-Indians will have complete power to define what is, and is not, 'Indian', even for Indians! We are talking about an absolute ideological and conceptual subordination of Indian people in addition to the total physical subordination they already experience. When this happens the last vestiges of real Indian society and Indian rights will disappear. Non-Indians will then 'own' our heritage and ideas as thoroughly as they now claim to own our land and resources."

Those who indulge in these activities and immerse themselves in that which they perceive to be our 'spiritual way' apparently do so to satisfy their own needs and to appease their feelings of spiritual isolation from belief systems categorized as 'structured religions'. As individuals it makes them feel better; it makes them feel whole; some go so far as to say 'connected' - but what does it do for others? What does it do for Indian people, those whom, supposedly, they so honor and respect? It does nothing and such self-orientated gratification is the antithesis of our philosophy. What are these individuals really saying to others when they elevate themselves by boasting phoney self awarded titles - 'Shaman', 'Holy Man', 'Medicine Man', 'Spiritual Leader', 'Sun dance Chief', 'Pipe Carrier', 'Holy Woman of the obscure lodge with something to do with wolves in its title' - and what do they want you to believe when they claim blood lineage to some of our most revered ancestors? They are asking for attention. They are craving recognition. They are seeking stature without earning the right . . . . and that is not our way. Our holy people do not promote themselves, some within their own communities may not even know that they hold the gift. In common with every nation, the Creator chose us, Lakotas, to share a particular life way with - one of prayer - and through His emissaries He taught us the manner and values we must respect and follow to live as Lakotas. The Creator conferred upon us the responsibility to protect this sacred way. We do not pray for ourselves. We do not sacrifice for ourselves. The Creator bestowed these gifts upon us to make us better human beings and in aspiring only to that, what we receive is not for ourselves but for our people, all life, the earth, the two-leggeds, the four- leggeds, the winged, everything that walks, crawls and flies . . . .we are the last in any line. Knowledge brings responsibility, not a title.

We appreciate that there are those who are not born of our people but who are true and have an understanding. As Lakotas we do not seek converts and our spirituality can not be adopted but a few have come to recognize our blood, sweat, tears and pain by contributing to our lives, to our communities, to our struggle and to the defense of our front lines. We recognize their sincerity; they do not impose themselves; they do not ask; and they do not take - which in part explains why some trust and share with them. They understand that spirituality and sovereignty can not be separated - both are entwined within the land. We can appreciate why many in the dominant society claim to be spiritually disenfranchised from interpretations of a religious doctrine conceived in, and with significant relevance to, the Middle East. Man made prejudices and interpretations have been attached to those doctrines to conquer, impose and devastate out of hatred and greed which has undermined the purity and integrity of those scriptures. We are striving to resist the corruption and distortion of our spirituality. We do not oppose any faith followed in truth by sincere people who honor the Creator and all life through their dedication. Respect for those expressions of prayer and selfless commitment to others through the Creator brings genuine unity among all people without fear of imposition or assimilation.

We refuse to allow our spirituality to be reduced to a commodity or fad. Our ancestors gave their lives to defend our way of life - to protect our spirituality and sovereignty. Our elders endured the 'Kill the Indian, Save the Man' boarding school regime to protect what we have today. Many sacrificed and fell in those lost generations but because some survived our traditions and spirituality survived, and so we survive as Lakotas. We fight in defense of our spirituality so our children and future generations will also survive - as Lakotas. Our spirituality is our strength and our identity. We continue to resist attempts to assimilate and eradicate us. Prior to the boarding schools, President Ulysses S. Grant divided our reservations up and threw them to which ever denomination wanted to 'Christianize' us, and in places the effects of the missionaries' influence are still prevalent. Many of the books that have become 'definitive' for Anglo ethnographers, anthropologists, theologians and now wannabes, were compiled in that era. Countless misconceptions resulted due to the authors and editors misinterpretations, primarily because, with regard to spirituality, their significant points of reference were all Judaic/Christian, compounded by translation from Lakota to latter Indo-European. What they were told was not always what they wrote but these documents continue to be accepted as credible. Those who said they wanted to learn didn't listen - so what's changed?

A number of our own people labor to find their identity - to know what it is to be Lakota. Most of those have been denied opportunities to experience, learn and absorb our history, culture and spirituality due to suppression, denial and the socio-economic constraints we exist within - for some simply surviving is an achievement. Our youth and children are particularly vulnerable and, more than any other strata within our communities, they need that strong sense of identity, that knowledge and pride - the positive foundation that only Lakota spirituality can provide them with. It is their right. When non-Indians, encouraged and influenced by charlatans and frauds (some of whom have Lakota blood), degrade our ceremonies seeking to experience our spirituality and then state that 'practicing' Lakota spirituality is 'their right', whose right and need is greater? The wannabe or New Ager's right, or the right of our own children to experience their own culture? Those who follow and promote so called new age, intertribal, rainbow tribe 'leaders' who claim to be healers or medicine people pose a grave threat to Lakota culture and the traditional ways of other indigenous nations. The applicable terms; fraud, liar and cheat; are genuinely inter-racial and intertribal. Have they really been trained by elders and instructed to take their 'healing' message to the world through workshops and bogus ceremonies? Or are they simply supplying a demand and exploiting not only our own people, but those of other cultures - Indian and non-Indian - who through no fault of their own do not know any better?

Spirituality cannot be bought or sold and nobody has the right to capitalize by attempting to do so. Prayer cannot be purchased. Those who participate with and support the fraudulent 'Pipe Carriers', 'Medicine Men', 'Clan Leaders' and 'Shamen' heal only the exponent's personal finances and, in doing so, assist in the destruction of not only Lakota culture but the spiritual ways of all traditional indigenous people.